Multi-Tasking is a Lie

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-by Matt Leedham

In case you haven’t heard yet, multi-tasking is false. It doesn’t exist.

No, seriously, you can’t do it.

Let me explain. But first, put your phone down, stop eating, turn off your email alerts, and don’t even think about checking your Twitter feed.

Here’s the deal, friends. Multi-tasking is not physiologically, neurologically, or psychologically possible because concentration on different tasks would require you to access the same section of your “brain’s computer” at the same time. Don’t believe me?

Have you ever had too many applications running on your computer and it starts to act funny and not be as productive? It runs a little sluggish, right? It’s the same deal with your brain.

When you think you’re multi-tasking, what you’re actually doing is switching your concentration back and forth rapidly. The problem with this is that each time you distract yourself from the original task, it takes on average 15-20 minutes to regain complete focus.

“Don’t mistake activity for achievement.” – John Wooden

The key to fixing this is to single-task with all of your might for 90 minutes at a time. This is prime-time for your brain. Experts acknowledge that hyper-successful people are able to zone in and reach a “flow state” better than their competitors or peers.

So it all comes down to concentration in short spurts. In other words, single-tasking multiple times a day. But concentration isn’t just a matter of squinting your eyes and trying harder. Rather, it is your ability to remove distractions for a specific period of time.

How do you reduce distractions? Some tips:

  1. Turn Off Technology – Look, just do it, okay? I know it’s uncomfortable. I know you start to twitch when you’re off the grid. But just try it for 2-hours. You’re not missing out on anything, I promise.
  2. No Alerts – Many of us need to use technology to get work done, but there are ways to eliminate the distractions within. For example, turn off the send/receive function on your email client. This will allow you to search for things or work within email without getting distracted by the fire hose of information being sprayed at you.
  3. Be Anti-Social – There are times to be social and collaborative at work, and there are times to get things done. If you need to reach a flow state and get a project moving, put on your headphones, close your office door (if applicable), go to a quiet conference room, and shut yourself off from your local environment.

This is stuff is proven to be true and effective. If you’re trying to get more done, be more effective, or get frustrated with how often you’re distracted, give this a try. You may be surprised at how productive you can be and how much your quality of work improves.

Hat tip to John Nicholson of Marketade for highlighting this info recently.

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